3 Fascinating Facts About ‘American Idol’ Judge Lionel Richie

Everything Lionel Richie touches turns to gold. From his early days with The Commodores and solo hits like “Three Times a Lady” and “Easy,” the 74-year-old Alabaman has churned out hits for more than five decades. Here are three fascinating facts about the “American Idol” judge.

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Before He Was a GRAMMY Winner, Lionel Richie Was a Tennis Star

Richie attended the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama on a tennis scholarship —”when you could see the ball,” he told supermodel Naomi Campbell.

As his competitors developed swifter backhands and serves, Richie realized “tennis was not going to be my thing.”

He Planned On Becoming a Priest — Until a Screaming Group of Women Changed His Mind

Richie had aspirations to become an Episcopalian priest when he arrived at Tuskegee Institute. On campus, he met the men who would become his fellow Commodores members.

A group of enthusiastic young women in the funk-soul group’s first audience changed the “We Are the World” singer’s entire life trajectory.

“Up until that moment no one, no girl had ever screamed at me,” Richie told People in April 2019. “It was right after those girls screamed, I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t think I’m gonna be priest material.’”

It certainly wasn’t the last time Richie incited that kind of fervor from the opposite sex. (Although it very well may have been if he had decided to take up the cloth.)

[RELATED: Luke Bryan on What He’s Learned from Katy Perry and Lionel Richie]

Lionel Richie Wrote This Hit Song On The Toilet

Richie wrote 1980’s “Lady” at the request of late country icon Kenny Rogers. The track became one of Rogers’ most popular hits and also bolstered Richie’s career. Not bad for a song penned on the porcelain throne.

In addition to “Lady,” Rogers requested a second track. Richie was halfway through “Goin’ Back to Alabama” before Rogers decided he wanted to perform “Lady” first. What “The Gambler” singer didn’t know, however, was that Richie had only completed the first verse at the time.

The “Endless Love” songwriter quickly excused himself and wrote the second verse in a bathroom stall. “The idea of telling Mr. Rogers that I don’t have the second verse was not going to happen in my lifetime,” he told Drew Barrymore in March 2023.

Featured image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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